Have you been charged with the possession or distribution of child pornography? If so, you are not alone. Child pornography is one of the most common sex crimes charged in Los Angeles, and the prosecution of child pornography offenders is on the rise as both federal and state judicial systems have taken greater interest in prosecuting such crimes.

An unfortunate byproduct of this increased effort, however, is the all-too-common placing of allegations against individuals who aren’t the criminals the judicial system is in search of, leaving some innocent people seeking defense against a criminal charge they never would have thought they would be facing.

“Robert really came to my rescue! I found myself under false accusations and he really came through. I was really freaking out, and Robert was able to make me feel like I was in good hands. I can’t recommend his services enough.”Drew, CA

Because child pornography involves the harming and exploitation of children, the penalties and consequences associated with the crime are incredibly serious. If you are convicted of child pornography, not only will you have to deal with paying a hefty fine and serving time in prison, but you will also be required to register as a sex offender — something that will adversely affect the rest of your life as there are many social stigmas involved in sex crimes and child pornography specifically.

Even a wrongful child pornography charge can negatively impact impact many areas of your life including employment, higher education opportunities, and future criminal charges.

If you have been charged with the possession or distribution of child pornography, you need the help a qualified criminal defense attorney who can represent and defend you against the serious allegations that you are facing. If you live or work in the Los Angeles area and are looking for a criminal defense attorney who will fight to protect your interests, you have come to the right place.

Some lawyers shy away from handling child pornography cases due to the nature of these offenses. I don’t. I believe in upholding my clients’ rights to the fullest extent as I challenge any type of sex offense allegations or charges, no matter what they may involve. Whether you are facing child pornography charges in state or federal court, I can provide you with the knowledgeable and aggressive counsel you need.

Child Pornography Charges in California

Under California Penal Code 311, child pornography is defined as the creation, publication, or distribution of any material that depicts minors (persons under 18 years of age) in a real or simulated sexual situation. This material can be in the form of a picture or photograph, computer-generated image, video, or other medium. Even “sexting” a naked picture of a minor can get you in trouble for child pornography in California.

Some of the most common child pornography crimes prosecuted in California include:

  • Child Pornography Possession
  • Child Pornography Distribution
  • Peer to Peer Sharing of Child Pornography
  • Possession of Obscene Material

The consequences of child pornography charges are varied and may be extremely severe. A defendant may lose his or her job and may face ruined personal and professional relationships, not to mention social ostracism and even such extremes as threats of injury and worse. If convicted, a defendant may face imprisonment and fines.

At a state level, child pornography is a “wobbler” offense and may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the particular circumstances. A defendant may also be face sentenced with multiple counts of child pornography possession at once, one for each picture, video or other material allegedly found in his or her possession. This means that the criminal penalties can quickly add up. If a defendant is charged in federal court, the penalties are even more severe.

While certain child pornography crimes carry mandatory sentences, the judge will typically examine the specifics of the case in order to determine the appropriate sentence. The factors that will be taken into account include:

  • How many images were in the defendant’s possession
  • The types of images in possession
  • Whether the defendant has a prior criminal record or has been previously charged or convicted for committing a sex crime
  • Written testimony from a doctor or medical professional regarding the likelihood that the defendant may repeat the illegal behavior

Because the internet makes it easy to access pornography, including illegal images, many people do not realize the possible ramifications of viewing or downloading material depicting a minor. Additionally, child pornography may be downloaded to a person’s computer without their knowledge as a virus or other attachment to legal images that they have accessed, making an unknowing person vulnerable to the consequences of committing a child pornography crime.

Fortunately, your odds of being convicted in this type of scenario are greatly reduced, as law enforcement is aware of the issue and will investigate whether the accused has intentionally sought out and viewed the images. Nonetheless, it is imperative that you seek the council of a defense attorney, whether or not you obtained child pornography material knowingly or unknowingly, who can investigate the details of your case and devise the best possible strategy in your defense.

Legal Defenses for Child Pornography Charges

If you have been charged with child pornography, there are many possible legal defenses that can be used to fight for your freedom and uphold your innocence. Oftentimes a prosecutor may try to coerce a defendant into pleading guilty in exchange for certain sentence reductions or other bargains. Because some child pornography crimes carry mandatory sentences, it is important that you not allow yourself to be coerced into accepting a guilty plea.

Additionally, pleading guilty to child pornography will subject you to the social stigmas and other lasting consequences associated with such a conviction. Your best option is to consult a criminal defense attorney who can devise a strategy to fight your charges. With the right defense strategy and an aggressive legal team backing you up, your case could result in a dismissal or acquittal, or whatever the best possible outcome may be.
The following are some of the most common legal defenses against child pornography charges that your attorney may choose to use, depending on the details of your case:

  • Innocence — Did inappropriate spam or pop-ups get you in trouble? Did you type in the wrong web address accidentally? With the prevalence of viruses and other unwanted attachments to legal online material, becoming an unknowing or unwilling participant in illegal online activity is a real possibility. Fortunately, you cannot be convicted of possession of child pornography if you can prove that you did not obtain the material intentionally.
  • Illegal search and seizure — Were the materials being used as evidence against you obtained unlawfully?
  • Entrapment — Did somebody (such as an undercover officer) encourage you to talk about or buy child pornography when you never had done anything like this before? You cannot be held liable for a crime that you were unlawfully tricked into committing.
  • The content isn’t applicable — Possessing films that are rated by the Motion Picture Association of America are exempt from California child pornography laws. If the content in question is rated by the MPAA or otherwise does not fit the definition of child pornography, you are not guilty of violating California Penal Code 311.
  • Age — Are the people depicted in the materials under 18? In order to qualify as child pornography, a minor party (someone under 18 years of age) must be depicted or described as being involved in sexual conduct. It is important to note, however, that unknown age is not a viable defense. For example, if you possess material depicting a 16-year-old in a sexual act, but did not know the age of the individual depicted or assumed that they were over 18, you are still guilty of possession of child pornography.
  • False accusation — Were you framed? Does somebody have something against you and that is why he / she is leveling these charges at you?
  • Psychological addiction — Do you have a psychological addiction to the materials and are remorseful about this? A judge may examine the testimony of a medical professional regarding your psychological status and you might be able to receive counseling instead of a prison sentence.

Federal Child Pornography Defense Attorney

The U.S. Federal Government has far-reaching powers to investigate and prosecute suspected cases of possession, creation or trafficking of child pornography.

If the government has reason to believe that someone is involved in child pornography, it will use its wiretapping, subpoena and interviewing power to aggressively investigate the case. Then, should it find evidence that a crime was committed, it will make an arrest and thoroughly prosecute its suspect.

A person convicted on federal child pornography charges can expect to serve a federal prison sentence between 5 years and life imprisonment, depending on the facts of the case.

If you or someone you love has been accused of possessing, creating or trafficking child pornography, it is important that you speak with a federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The federal government is known for showing very little leniency in child pornography cases, so working with an attorney skilled in federal defense can help you build a strong defense and safeguard your freedom.

Federal Definition of Child Pornography

“Robert really came to my rescue! I found myself under false accusations and he really came through. I was really freaking out, and Robert was able to make me feel like I was in good hands. I can’t recommend his services enough.”Drew, CA

Federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving someone under 18 years of age.

The law is very broad, and it covers almost all types of media: photos, video, computer-generated images, undeveloped film or videotape, as well as electronically stored data that can be converted to an image. The law doesn’t require that the image show the child engaging in sexual activity — only that the image be sexually suggestive.

It’s also illegal to deal with computer-generated images made to look like actual minors, as well as edited images of actual minors.

How Do I Know If I’m Under Federal Investigation?

In short, you usually don’t. When federal agencies like the FBI or the US Postal Service conduct a criminal investigation, they are under no obligation to notify you that you are suspected of committing a crime.

As well, if they gather information from services you use — your internet service provider, web hosting or mobile carrier — your service providers don’t have to tell you, either.

If you are visited by federal agents asking for an interview, you should:

  1. Politely inform them that you would love to talk, but that you must first speak with your attorney on retainer.
  2. Have the interview with the attorney present (ideal) or after speaking with an attorney.

There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, by requesting that you speak with an attorney first — which is your constitutional right — it might cause the federal agents to rethink whether it’s worth talking with you in the first place.

Second, if you are not a suspect but rather a person close to a case, this can keep you out of trouble if you misremember or misstate a fact.

When the Federal Government Gets Involved

federal criminal defense attorneyChild pornography is also illegal under California state law. Depending on the facts of the case, it is possible to be prosecuted under state laws in addition to, or instead of, federal law.

The federal government gets involved in child pornography cases when:

  1. Production, distribution, reception or possession crosses state or international borders;
  2. Production, distribution, reception or possession involves a federal service like the U.S. Postal Service;
  3. The case involves persuading, inducing, enticing or coercing a minor into producing child pornography.

Here’s where it gets tricky —

Even if an explicit image didn’t cross borders, if any materials involved in the production, distribution, reception or possession of the image crossed borders, the federal government can get involved. Let’s look at two examples:

Example 1: Mike and Tom are neighbors. They share pornographic images of 17-year-olds amongst themselves on CD-ROMs. Because the discs and computers used to write the discs likely were not produced in the same state as Mike and Tom, this could fall under federal oversight.

Example 2: Mike sends Tom an e-mail with a pornographic image. Again, both Mike and Tom live in the same state. However, because the servers used to host Mike and Tom’s e-mail accounts are in another state, this could become another federal case.

Because of this, we see that virtually all child pornography cases can fall under federal jurisdiction.

Penalties for Federal Child Pornography Charges

Prison sentences typically range between 5 and 20 years for a first time conviction of possession of child pornography,. Production of child pornography carries a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 in federal prison.

Sentences can range as high as life imprisonment if the case involves an aggravating factor like:

  1. The images are violent, sadistic or masochistic;
  2. The minor was sexually abused; or
  3. The defendant has prior convictions for child sexual exploitation.

Defense Against Child Pornography Charges

Even facing just the accusations of child pornography production or trafficking can be life-changing. Familial and personal relationships can be strained, and work opportunities can dry up.

As we mentioned above, facing a conviction can mean the loss of your freedom.

However, it’s often possible to obtain favorable judgments, reduced charges or even outright dismissals by working with a federal criminal defense attorney who is skilled in handling sex crimes cases. A good attorney is detail-focused and will know how to work within the framework of the legal system to not only defend your rights but fight for your freedom.

Robert M. Helfend has practiced exclusively as a criminal defense attorney since 1984, establishing a reputation in federal courts as a specialist in sex crimes and child pornography cases. With decades of experience handling cases just like yours, he knows how to get the best possible judgments for his clients and make this stressful time a little less anxious.

Call today for your free case review — 800-834-6434.

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